Portugal

A Tide In The Affairs Of Man

There are two forthcoming dates which will set the direction and strength of the tide and certainly have a marked affect upon the ventures. They are this Sunday, May 6, when both the French and Greek populace will decide on who is running their government and then on May 31 when the Irish have their refrendum. At the least one must be thankful that there are Democracies that are working and that no group of Generals or some thug is making the decisions. Forthcoming we visualize many Socialist demands such as Eurobonds being made and Germany standing alone in the corner and refusing to fund which will make for all kinds of volatile markets. The bigger crisis though, we fear, will be when Germany says no to funding some grand Socialist idea. The problem is the size of the economy. The German economy is 25% of the American economy and it is going to get down to a matter of capital and what Germany can afford without being downgraded and a European Union without a AAA rated Germany is a very different affair both for the EU’s debt structure and for the Euro. In June the Fed’s Operation Twist comes to an end. There is no new stimulus plan on the table in either America or in Europe now. This means that the last four years of monetary easing and living off of that which has been printed is coming to an end. The consequences of this, historically, have been declines in the equity markets.

Eurosis Is Back With A Bang: PMIs Collapse, Unemployment Surges To Record

Yesterday we poked fun of Goldman for suggesting that the reason for the late-day sell off was "Prudent profit-taking as folks remember Europe isn’t closed tomorrow." Turns out Goldman could not have been more right: around 4 am Eastern this morning Europe reported a series of economic updates which showed that the European economy continues to be nothing but a slow motion trainwreck and is getting far worse. Starting with final April Eurozone Manufacturing PMI which printed at 45.9 vs an initial print of 46.0, a 9 month low with a core breakdown is as follows:  Italian manufacturing PMI 43.8 at a 6 month low, est 47.1 (prior 47.9), German manufacturing PMI at a 33 month low 46.2 vs initial 46.3 (prior 48.4), France manufacturing PMI 46.9 vs initial 47.3 (prior 46.7), which also followed Italy by recording sharpest drop in manufacturing new orders in 3 yrs in April, and so on as can be seen in the chart below. As every sellsider who has opined so far this morning, these numbers are all "hugely disappointing."

Guest Post: A Different Way Of Looking At China

Hard landing, soft landing, civil unrest, dominant economic superpower – the forecasts flow freely regarding China. The fact that good data is hard to come by regarding China does not seem to inhibit many outside observers. In this piece I will look at China through the lens of economic structure, Chinese history and culture—concepts which a number of observers often overlook. My general conclusion is that Chinese GDP growth rates are about to undergo a gradual but nevertheless perceptible decline. But I now believe a hard landing crash is unlikely, assuming that Europe does not totally disintegrate and the US does not roll over into a full scale recession.

The Europe Crisis From A European Perspective

When we talk about Europe today in an economic context, we really mean the Eurozone, whose seventeen members are the core of Europe and share a common currency, the euro. The euro first came into existence thirteen years ago, on January 1, 1999, replacing national currencies for eleven states; Greece joined two years later. In theory, the idea of a common currency for European nations with common borders is logical, and it was Canadian economist Robert Mundell's work on optimum currency areas that provided much of the theoretical cover. However, the concept was flawed from the start.

Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: May 1

With a Labour Day market holiday across the continent, focus turns to the FTSE-100. The UK market is trading modestly higher with some strong earnings reports overnight lifting the index. Lloyds Group posted stronger than expected profits and reported confidence in the delivery of their financial guidance. The report has boosted Lloyds shares to become one of the top gainers of the day. Despite this, the financials sector is being held back from outperforming as Man Group fail to deliver on their sales figures, pushing their shares lower throughout the session.  The only notable data release of the European session was UK Manufacturing PMI, coming in below expectations with a reading of 50.5 as manufacturing output was dampened across April by Eurozone weakness and contracting new orders. Following the release, GBP weakness was observed, with GBP/USD touching upon session lows.  Pre-market, the RBA cut their cash target rate by 50BPS, a larger cut than expected. The board cited skittish market conditions and below trend output growth as the triggers for the rate cut. As such, AUD weakness is observed across the board and AUD/USD stops just short of breaking through 1.0300 to the downside.  Looking ahead in the session, participants look toward US ISM Manufacturing for March due at 1500BST/0900CDT as the next key data release.

Is ISDA About To Be Forced To Cave?

Given the TBTF's dominant oligopoly of the credit derivatives market (due mainly to the large exchange's unwillingness to act appropriately when they know the blow-back from their sell-side clients would be considerable), it is perhaps surprising that ISDA (the body that 'regulates' watches over and determines credit events in the CDS market) is coming under increasing pressure to honor the spirit of CDS contract after the FUBAR debacle surrounding the Greek restructuring. As Katy Burne notes in today's WSJ, ISDA is set to decide on a revamp of the CDS rules within weeks as pressure from the buy-side (the other side of the trade obviously) to alter the legal wording governing what is (and is not) a credit event trigger. "Whether it is a series of small fixes or a root-and-branch rewrite is still to be decided" but we note that the market - as we discussed in depth with regard to Portugal over the weekend - is becoming more comfortable once again with the CDS contract as a hedge against 'problems' in the $2.9 trillion sovereign credit derivatives market. This is without doubt a positive step - as opposed to the typical silent arrogance of the ISDA or more broad dismissal of CDS (ban them - they are to blame) arguments that political leaders will tend to bias to. The simple fact of the matter is that CDS have been a much less manipulated market indicator of real-money stress than bonds for much of the last four months and with Portugal's basis normalizing (presumptively on the back of lower concerns at CDS event risk dislocation), perhaps real-money will slow its bond selling (choosing to hedge instead) and/or Italian/Spanish banks will be forced to buy back protection en masse to cover the huge leap in exposure they have taken on - especially with the surcharge chatter of Basel III re-appearing.

Interactive Map Of Europe's Recessionary Tide

As noted earlier, and in the aftermath of both the UK and Spain officially double dipping, very soon a majority of Europe will be submerged under the latest recessionary tide which has already engulfed Spain, UK, Greece, Italy,  Portugal, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark,  Holland, Czech Republic, and  Slovenia. The primary wildcard remains Germany, although there is a more than 50% chance that following some very weak PMI data, the country will follow up its already negative Q4 GDP print with another decline, officially pushing the European growth dynamo into recession as well (as for France which reps and warrants that everything is great, it is not as if anyone actually believes those numbers, especially after Hollande becomes president in one week). For everyone who wants to track the European double dip tsunami in real time, the following interactive chart from Reuters is just for you.

Give Austerity A Chance: Growth Spending Failed

The markets may decide to play along with the renewed talk of growth and the death of austerity, but it is shocking how quickly writers and the media have latched on to the idea that growth will somehow save us and that the entire problem is the fault of austerity. Although it seems like it has been around for awhile, austerity is fairly new.  I don’t think Greece even got nailed with austerity until May of 2010.  In September 2010 when EFSF and ESM were first officially launched, Portugal and Ireland were both contributing members.  The first time austerity was mentioned in Spain and Italy had to be the summer of 2011, if not later? Until that time, I assume growth was part of the policy of most countries?  I find it hard to believe any country engaged in an anti-growth policy?  Was not every policy in Europe, up until at least 2010 if not beyond, actually a “growth” policy?  Why did they fail to create enough growth to stop the debt crisis? Ah, that is the other problem.  It isn’t just growth that is needed, certainly not to comfort the bond market, it is growth that surpasses the amount spent (borrowed) to create it.

Spain Officially Double Dips, Joins 10 Other Western Countries In Recession

The good news: Spanish Q1 GDP printed -0.3% on expectations of a -0.4% Q/Q decline. Unfortunately this is hardly encouraging for the nearly 25% of the labor force which is unemployed, and for consumers whose purchasing habits imploded following record plunges in retail sales as observed last week. The bad news: Spain now joins at least 10 other Western countries which have (re) entered a recession. Per DB: "Spain will today likely join a growing list of Western Developed world countries in recession. Last week the UK was added to a recession roll call that includes Greece, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Czech Republic, and Slovenia. Debt ladened countries with interest rates close to zero have limited flexibility to fight the business cycle and this impotency will continue for many years." Alas, the abovementioned good news won't last: from Evelyn Hermman, economist at BNP - "The Pace of Spain’s economic contraction may increase in coming quarters as austerity measures bite more sharply." Of course, it is the "good news" that sets the pace each and every day, as the bad news is merely a further catalyst to buy, buy, buy as the ECB will allegedly have no choice but to do just that when the time comes. And something quite surprising from DB's morning comment: "If it were us in charge we would allow more defaults which would speed up the cleansing out of the system thus encouraging a more efficient resource allocation in the economy at an earlier stage." Wait, this is Deustche Bank, with assets which are nearly on par with German GDP, saying this? Wow...

Don't Forget Portugal: MS Sees A Second Bail-Out By September With A Bail-In To Follow

With all eyes firmly planted on Spain, the little-Escudo-that-could has quietly slipped off the heading-into-the-abyss list of the mainstream media. Little was made this week of the fact that 10Y Portuguese bond yields dropped to seven-month lows - except by us of course where we explained that this is almost entirely due to the CDS-Bond basis trade 'arb-du-jour' that has placed a technical bid under Portuguese bonds. Between the help from LTRO and the fact that ISDA is under-pressure to improve/amend CDS rules to 'honor the spirit of the CDS contract to the fullest extent' which implicitly reduces the massive 'event' premium uncertainty between CDS and Bond risks for distressed-names (thanks to the ECB's actions in Greece), every bond in the short- to mid-term maturity of Portugal appears notably rich - with only the longest-dated bonds reflecting the crisis that remains. As we described in detail here, the real Debt/GDP of Portugal is around 140% (notably higher than the EC estimates of 111% once contingent liabilities are take account of) and the issues that face this small nation are entirely unresolved with bank recapitalization needs of at least EUR12bn and a highly indebted private sector. The bottom-line is that optically-pleasing bond improvements recently have been entirely due to synthetic credit arbitrage and, as Morgan Stanley notes, the nation remains mired in the three risks of contingent liabilities, bank recap needs, and a grossly indebted private sector; leaving a second bailout very likely by September 2012 and the challenging debt dynamics likely to mean a restructuring.

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To give you an idea of how bad things are with the cajas, consider that in February 2011 the Spanish Government implemented legislation demanding all Spanish banks have equity equal to 8% of their “risk-weighted assets.” Those banks that failed to meet this requirement had to either merge with larger banks or face partial nationalization. The deadline for meeting this capital request was September 2011. Between February 2011 and September 2011, the number of cajas has in Spain has dropped from 45 to 17.

 

Richard Koo On The Three Problems With Bullish Speculation On Europe

The balance sheet recession diagnosis of many of the world's developed nations remains among the clearest explanation linking the failure of textbook monetary policy to the dismal multipliers, transmission mechanism breakages, and sad reality of a recovery-less recovery. Whether you agree with Richard Koo's traditional but massive Keynesian fiscal stimulus medicinal choice is a different matter but the Nomura economist delineates the three problems (two macroeconomic and one capital flow) exacerbating the eurozone crisis and notes that "bulls have gotten ahead of themselves". Noting that the central bank supply of funds may help address financial crises but cannot resolve problems at borrowers, and that authorities have never admitted they were wrong, Koo stresses the three key reasons that bullish speculation on eurozone is premature - monetary accommodation's ineffectiveness when the private sector is deleveraging, active fiscal retrenchment by the core when fiscal stimulus is the only plus for aggregate demand, and Japanese and US lagged-examples of that dash any short-term hope that structural reforms will lead to growth. Even his solution to the European debacle - one of financial repression limiting the sale of government bonds to each nation's own citizens - while retroactively limiting a nation's largesse seems to only lead to the inevitable Japanification we have discussed at length. In the meantime, Koo appears far less sanguine than the markets about the prospects for anything but further demise in Europe (and the US).

Europe Ends Week Green But Notably Red On Month

For the third week in a row, European equity and credit markets have remained range-bound. Equities broadly ended the week in the green with the BE500 (Bloomberg's broad S&P 500-equivalent for Europe) ending near the top of the recent range - around the pre-NFP levels from 4/5. Spain and Italy have seen improvements this week in their equity indices but they remain down notably on the month and perhaps surprisingly only the UK's FTSE 100 is in the green for the month. Credit is considerably more dispersed but also green close-to-close on the week after a strong finish today (as the dismal data started rumors of more ECB easing and QE3 lifts). Stocks and high-beta crossover credit outperformed in the liquidity rush but subordinated financials lagged on the week. Critically though, while anchoring bias might make us all feel joyous in the last few days of recovery, we remain significantly red on the month across all risk asset classes in Europe. Sovereigns followed the same path as equities and credit - with another range-bound rotation up better on bill auction success and worse on bond auction failure but as with equities/credit today's exuberance lifted them to the middle of the recent range - well off the best levels of the last few weeks. Most notably, Spanish and Italian 10Y bond spreads are over 60bps wider in April and continue to trade in a two-steps-wider-one-step-tighter rotation intra-week. Portugal is the big winner on the week (and month) when it comes to bond spreads - which are now back to mid-September levels. However - as we have tried to explain before - the massive cheapness of Portuguese bonds relative to CDS (the so-called basis) has just been too tempting and grabbing this 'risk-free' carry has provided some bid to a notably illiquid Portuguese bond market and crushed the differential between bonds and CDS. The point being - be careful in reading too much into Portuguese bond improvements as it is much more a technical arbitrage move than real money flowing into this restructuring prone nation.